Asia Markets: Asian markets largely quiet ahead of Lunar New Year holiday

Asia-Pacific stocks were mixed early Wednesday following slight gains in the U.S. overnight.

Indexes in the region, excluding those in New Zealand and South Korea, were within 0.3% of Tuesday’s finishes. The Kospi SEU, +1.06%   rose nearly 1% as Samsung Electronics rebounded 005930, +3.16%   2.7%. That put the week’s gain at 9%, which erased most of the month’s decline.

New Zealand’s NZX 50 NZ50GR, -0.59%   fell 0.5% as Fletcher Building FBU, -10.81%   slumped 12% to a two-year low after it revealed additional losses at its building-and-interiors division. The company’s shares were halted for nearly a week after Fletcher said Thursday it expected more red ink for the segment.

The S&P 500’s trading range on Tuesday, which was within the levels that the index moved on Monday, indicates “overall caution” among investors, said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Japanese stocks were lower early Wednesday. The Nikkei NIK, -0.22%   was recently down 0.3% as the U.S. dollar JPYUSD, +0.290222%   was around ¥107.70, versus ¥108.30 at the end of stock trading Tuesday.

Ahead of the open, Japan said its fourth-quarter economic growth was less than analysts expected. But the economy has grown for eight straight quarters, the longest run in 28 years.

“GDP growth slowed sharply last quarter and we think that the economy won’t expand as strongly this year as it did in 2017,” said Marcel Thieliant at Capital Economics.

Trading in the region will slow as the Lunar New Year holiday approaches. Taiwan’s stock market closed yesterday and China will join it Thursday. Others in Asia will only see a half-day of trading on Thursday before being shut Friday.

U.S. consumer inflation data is due to be released later Wednesday.

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